'Monumental' oak on upper Union Ave. endangered by curb cut

LACONIA — The large, spreading oak tree standing between Dunkin' Donuts and Dairy Queen on upper Union Avenue may become the next casualty of the construction of a commercial building by Cafua Management, Inc. on the lot where the Hathaway House once stood.

When the Planning Board approved the site plan for the project it stipulated that "the large oak tree near the northeast corner of the property is a monumental shade tree, and as such shall be protected and maintain(ed) during and after construction."

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said yesterday that a representative of Cafua Management, Inc. indicated to her that the company will request permission to remove the tree. When the Planning Board met this week Assistant Planner Brandee Loughlin informed members that a request to remove the tree would be forthcoming and encouraged them to familiarize themselves with the property. She said that because of the size of the tree and sensitivity of the site, removal of the tree would require approval by the board.

The tree is rooted in the sidewalk, within six feet of the curb cut defining the entrance and exit to the property, which is close to the northeast corner of the lot. The trunk of the tree, which is 14 feet around, all but totally obscures the view of the southbound lane of traffic on Union Avenue of a motorist leaving the site. At the same time, the tree is approximately ten yards south of a second curb cut for vehicles leaving Dairy Queen next door, largely screening motorists exiting both sites from one another. And even if two motorists were leaving each site at the same time they would have no way of knowing which direction they were taking.

In addition, Scott McPhie, conservation technician in the Planning Department, said that when the site plan was reviewed, concern was expressed about the condition of the tree. The roots of the tree grow amid sewer, drainage and gas lines. McPhie said that excavation and backfilling may have damaged the root system enough to impair the health and shorten the life of the tree, which could only be determined by a professional arborist.

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Laconia police search for assault suspect

LACONIA — Police are investigating a report of woman who was assaulted Sunday at 12:31 a.m. by a white walking on the sidewalk near 235 Union Avenue, just south of Busy Corner.

Police said the woman was slightly injured but was not transported to the hospital.

The man may have left in a silver 4-door Mazda that was seen in the area during the time.

Video footage from a nearby location shows a thin, white male of undetermined height with dark hair and police are looking to speak with him about the incident.

If anyone has any information they are asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or 524-1717.

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Commissioners will huddle with lawmakers before taking next step on jail

LACONIA — The Belknap County commissioners unanimously endorsed a proposed $8.5 million plan for an 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed community corrections center and upgrades to the current Belknap County House of Corrections when they met Wednesday morning at the Belknap County Complex.
The endorsement came after a presentation by the county's Jail Planning Committee at which Project Manager Anthony Mento of SMP Architecture said that a recalculation of the estimated costs showed a new cost estimate closer to $8.3 million.
County Commissioners, faced with the need for $370,000 to meet the architectural and engineering costs needed to complete the planning process, and aware that only $308,000 remains in the jail planning fund in the Department of Corrections budget, have decided to seek a meeting with the Belknap County Convention before finalizing any contracts.
The commissioners did agree to waive the county's competitive bidding process in order to hire Northpoint Engineering of Pembroke for three projects, a wetlands delineation survey and analysis of site specific soils for $15,500; conduction geotechnical borings to evaluate subsurface conditions for $9,600 and $3,300 for a conceptual design in conjunction with SMP Architecture.
The decision to to meet with the convention before proceeding further with designs came after Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) said that he had concerns over comments made by members of the delegation with regard to the staffing costs for the new facility and their impact on future county budgets.
''We need to bring them in and provide some education about what we're doing before we go forward. It will take two-thirds of the delegation to approve a bond issue,'' he pointed out.
County commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), who also chairs the Jail Planning Committee, said that the goal of the commissioners is to work together as a team to build support for the plan.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he would like to see the same presentation made by the Jail Planning Committee which opened yesterday's meeting given to the convention.
DeVoy said that the commissioners would tell the convention with regard to the jail planning funds that ''we want your okay to spend this money, then go through the bonding process.''
The proposed plan calls for spending $7,171,928 for an 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed community corrections facility and $491,000 for upgrades to the existing county jail, which currently has 87 beds. County corrections Interim Superintendent Keith Gray said that parts of the current jail which are too difficult to renovate would no longer be used, leaving the current facility with a capacity of 60 inmates.
The proposed cost of the community corrections facility includes a $700,000 contingency fund.
Additional items were budgeted at $668,300.
Also included in the overall operating plan are security and program costs, which are estimated at $650,000 for hiring six additional Department of Corrections staffers and contracting with private firms to provide programs aimed at helping offenders deal with drug, alcohol and mental health problems before they are released into the community.
DeVoy has previously suggested that some of the costs of paying for the contracted services could be met by increasing the amount of money the county currently receives from the county-owned Gunstock Mountain Recreation Area. Currently Gunstock pays $175,000 a year to the county and the memorandum of understanding with the county which sets that rate is due for renewal later this year.
DeVoy also suggested that another source of funds could be the money realized through the work release program. The new facility would have 34 beds, 24 for men and 10 for women, who are on work release and the county receives one-third of whatever money they earn. He estimated that of all those on work release made $200 a week the county would receive over $100,000 a year which could be used to cover the costs for contractors.
Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center, a member of the Jail Planning Committee, said that the county will also realize savings through the work release program because it will not be liable for health care costs for those in the program, who will be covered either by private insurance or Medicaid.
Kevin Warwick of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., a consulting firm hired by the county to develop programs for a community corrections center helped develop a community corrections facility, said that the program has worked well for Sullivan County, where recidivism has been reduced from 65 percent to 18 percent.
He and Ross Cunningham, who was corrections superintendent in Sullivan County when its community corrections facility was built, both said that doing nothing is not an option for Belknap County as the county faces the possibility of lawsuits unless its facility meets federal standards, which it does not.

Belknap County Commissioners have unanimously endorsed a proposed $8.5 million plan for a community corrections facility and upgrades to the current Belknap County House of Corrections. Commissioners Richard Burchell of Gilmanton, Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton and Hunter Taylor of Alton are shown with members of the Jail Planning Committee, standing: Nicole Mills, Tamara McGonagle, Anthony Mento, project manager from SMP Architecture; Ross Cunnigham of Alternative Solutions Inc., Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center; Keith Gray, Interim Superintendent of the Belknap County Corrections Department; Kevin Warwick of Alternative Solutions Inc., Deb Shackett, Belknap County Administrator; Dustin Muzzey, Belknap County facilities manager; Brian Loanes, director of the Restorative Justice Program, and Craig Wiggin, Belknap County Sheriff. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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